More Culture:

August 19, 2015

New NoLibs record store Profond Music N Art takes a personal approach

Music Records
081815_profond1_FK Frank Kinyon/for PhillyVoice

Robert Del Femine lines up a track at Profond Music N Art’s First Friday grand opening last month while shoppers browse the freshly unveiled crates.

In today’s day and age of Spotify, SoundCloud, Apple Music and even Tidal, there’s much to be said about the way that artists are delivering music to their fans. While a lot of the recent discussion has pertained to streaming services, there is a growing undercurrent of music enthusiasts who are purchasing music, specifically vinyl records.

In case you haven’t been keeping score at home, vinyl record sales in 2014 were the highest they’ve been since they started keeping track in 1993, with Amazon and Urban Outfitters leading the pack in terms of market share at an estimated 12.3 percent and 8.1 percent, respectively. Well before these corporate giants jumped on the vinyl bandwagon, thousands of independent record stores served as pillars of the music and artist community.

Philadelphia is definitely a historic and important record-digging city, with countless famous record stores serving the needs of local and nationally touring DJs and producers over the years. Funk-O-Mart, Armand’s, The Sound of Market, Tequila Sunrise – the list could go on for quite a bit.

“We’re like the wedding DJ -- we take requests," Gabor K said. "We might not have something now, but we’ll get it for you next week if you want it.”

So what do the aforementioned stores all have in common besides slinging records? They’re all closed; and you can now add Old City favorite a.k.a. music to the list too, as it shuts its doors this week and will attempt to sell as much inventory as possible in the meantime (apparently there are deals to be had in these final days).

As a small business and record enthusiast myself, this news can be depressing – how else am I going to spend my paycheck and Sunday afternoons? However, amidst the news of these local closures, the past two years have brought on the birth of two exciting new record stores that have DJs and vinyl junkies far and beyond Philly buzzing. Brewerytown Beats and, as of two weeks ago, Profond Music N Art, have both opened.

Quietly tucked away on Third Street in Northern Liberties, serial entrepreneur Gabor K turned his lifelong dream of opening his own record shop into reality, using experiences from his favorite stores around the world to create a shop music lovers in our city can call home. So how exactly does this store plan to buck the national trend of independent music stores closing up shop? In my conversations with the staff at Profond, they all continually returned to one point: customer service. Profond's idea is to cater to both the high-end rare-record collectors as well as budding vinyl enthusiasts without being elitist -- an all-too-common symptom of many record stores with know-it-all employees who sneer at “un-cool” questions.

“I won’t mention any names, but I was at a store in New York one time, and when I walked into the shop, it seemed like the employees couldn’t be bothered to say hello and be friendly. One guy was in the DJ booth, the other was digging through records, and when I said hello, they didn’t say anything back. It made me uncomfortable. I just grabbed a few records, felt bad even listening to them and left,” Gabor said.

Fresh browsing crates await the twitching fingers of eager vinyl addicts. (Photo courtesy of Profond Music N Art)

The idea behind Profond, which means "deep" in French, is to follow the classic model of golden-age record stores: Provide a personalized experience for people to connect with music.

While half of the store’s inventory is focused on electronic music like house and techno, Gabor explained that the store will shift its crates depending on whatever people end up wanting and buying, with plans for developing an all-local section to showcase the talent of the artists in the city. 

“We’re like the wedding DJ -- we take requests," he said. "We might not have something now, but we’ll get it for you next week if you want it.”

For Philly house and techno heads, Profond offers a welcome alternative to trekking up I-95 to New York to snag the latest new releases from labels like Philly’s own Ovum Recordings or Razor-N-Tape, a Brooklyn label with strong ties to Philly.

“We’re mostly looking at this stuff like fans; this is a labor of love," he said. "We want to turn people into vinyl; the more record stores, the better.” 

"Philly is an important musical city, and there’s no reason a shop like this can’t exist here. You can definitely feel that things are moving in the right direction in the city," Gabor stated, citing clubs like The Dolphin and a growing cohort of connoisseurs as providing momentum to re-establish Philly as a music and clubbing destination like it was in the '90s when Josh Wink, King Britt, Nigel Richards and others dominated the charts, exporting the Philly electronic sound across the world.

Don’t let the deep clubby selections turn you away if that’s not your thing -- Gabor cites experiences playing in metal bands and a soft spot for classical music and female soul singers like Minnie Riperton as equal influences in forming his musical palette and the store’s selections. Whatever kind of music you love, Profond will have something to suit your taste, all with a personal touch and smile, he said.

“We’re mostly looking at this stuff like fans; this is a labor of love," he said. "We want to turn people into vinyl; the more record stores, the better.” 

Profond is open for business at 724 N. Third St. and can be followed on Instagram at @profondmusicnart, with an official website coming soon. Support a local independent business and pick up some great tunes while you’re at it!